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Dangers of Ketamine Addiction: Signs & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

January 15, 2024 (Originally Published)

July 20, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Ketamine, initially approved by FDA in 1970, is a dissociative drug and anesthetic used in both human and veterinary medicine. 

Its applications have expanded over time, now including the treatment of conditions like treatment-resistant depression. Researchers are also exploring its use in managing chronic pain, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. 

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People also know ketamine for its non-medical use as it can create a euphoric high. Ketamine abuse can lead to a strong psychological dependence. Additionally, abruptly stopping ketamine use may trigger dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Read on to learn about the dangers of ketamine addiction.

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Dangers of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine addiction poses significant dangers, impacting both physical health and overall well-being. 

  • Urinary tract problems: Ketamine is notorious for causing severe urinary tract issues, including inflammation, pain, and in extreme cases, bladder damage requiring surgical intervention.
  • Cognitive impairment: Prolonged use of ketamine can lead to a number of cognitive problems. These can include memory loss, reduced attention span, and impaired learning ability, affecting daily functioning and decision-making.
  • Psychological distress: Ketamine dependence can lead to or exacerbate mental health issues. These can include things like depression, anxiety, and in severe cases, induce psychotic episodes.
  • GI distress: Regular use can lead to abdominal pain and other GI issues, sometimes referred to as ketamine belly.
  • Physical dependence: Although less common than psychological dependence, physical dependence to ketamine can develop. This causes the development of ketamine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Increased accident risk: Impaired motor function from ketamine use increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Social and relationship problems: Addiction can strain relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Professional and academic decline: The effects of ketamine can lead to decreased performance at work or school.

Ketamine addiction is a serious concern that requires professional treatment and support to overcome the health risks.

How Addictive Is Ketamine (Special K)?

Ketamine, like all Schedule III controlled substances, has a relatively low potential for addiction. That said, the risk of developing an addiction to ketamine does exist.

Abusing ketamine can lead to the development of a tolerance for the drug. This will cause people to need larger doses to achieve the same levels of euphoria they initially experienced. Increasing doses can escalate swiftly as the body adjusts to the drug’s effects, further increasing dependence. 

Dependence is not the same as addiction, though. Addiction to ketamine is a condition characterized by compulsive use despite adverse outcomes. Ketamine addiction can profoundly impact daily life, relationships, and responsibilities. This can require the help of a professional treatment program to tackle the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.

Is Ketamine an Opioid?


No, ketamine is not an opioid. It is a dissociative anesthetic with painkilling and hallucinogenic properties.

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Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Various behavioral and physical signs might indicate problematic patterns of ketamine consumption. These include: 

  • Changes in social circles: An individual may start associating with a different group of friends.
  • Secrecy and deception: There might be a noticeable increase in secretive behaviors. This can include lying or deceptive actions, often to hide the extent of ketamine use.
  • Tolerance: The person may use more ketamine than at first as tolerance to the drug builds.
  • Neglect of appearance and responsibilities: A decline in personal grooming and hygiene are common signs of substance abuse.
  • Mood swings and behavioral changes: Sudden changes in mood or behavior, including anger or depression.
  • Altered sleep patterns: Insomnia and oversleeping are common problems for people who abuse ketamine.
  • Physical health decline: Noticeable decline in physical health. This can include things like weight loss or weight gain, dental issues, and more.
  • Cognitive impairments: Difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making skills, potentially resulting from prolonged ketamine use.
  • Withdrawal from social activities: Changes in social behaviors are quite common. Withdrawing from family, friends, and social activities to spend more time using ketamine or recovering from its effects. 

Recognizing these signs can help in identifying a potential addiction to ketamine.

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Can You Overdose on Ketamine?


Yes, it is possible to overdose on ketamine. Ketamine overdose can trigger severe respiratory distress, unconsciousness, and death.

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Treatment for Ketamine Addiction

Engaging with evidence-based ketamine addiction treatment can help people address problematic patterns of special K consumption. Here is what a typical treatment plan looks like. 

  • Assessment and evaluation: The most effective special K drug addiction treatment begins with a comprehensive assessment. Addiction professionals will assess the severity of the addiction and look for co-occurring mental health conditions. They then create a personalized treatment plan based on this initial evaluation.
  • Outpatient treatment: Most people addicted to ketamine find that outpatient treatment programs offer adequate structure and support. Most people can unpack the psychological component of special K addiction through outpatient therapy sessions.
  • Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab may be the best option for those who have co-occurring mental health disorders. This involves remaining at a treatment center for 30 to 90+ days while engaging with intensive dual diagnosis treatment.
  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral interventions and therapies are the cornerstone of treatment. Engaging with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps people in identifying triggers for addiction and making positive behavioral changes. DBT promotes distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and mindfulness.
  • Holistic therapies: Holistic treatment is often a complementary part of the treatment process. Most of the best rehabs supplement evidence-based treatments with holistic therapies like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and art therapy. This helps promote a rounded and whole-body approach to recovery from ketamine addiction.
  • Support groups: Many people battling addictions find support and accountability through participating in peer support groups like Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery.
  • Aftercare planning: All successful ketamine addiction treatment plans include comprehensive aftercare planning due to the relapsing nature of addiction.

How long does ketamine stay in your system?


Ketamine typically stays in your system for two to three days, but this may vary. Some of the variables include medical history, body mass, and the amount of time you have been using. The type of test (urine test, blood test, saliva test, hair test) can also change how long you can detect ketamine.

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Get Treatment for Ketamine Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

At Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of the most addictive drugs at in Southern California and Florida. Along with outpatient, we work with a number of vetted partners to provide the full continuum of care.

All addictions are unique, so all Renaissance treatment programs offer a personalized blend of therapies. This includes talk therapies, dual diagnosis treatment, medication-assisted treatment, group therapy and more.

For structured support and effective ketamine rehab, call 866.330.9449 for immediate assistance and learn about treatment options.

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